Taufel roped in to improve Indian umpiring
After a lengthy existence away from the spotlight, Indian umpires seem to be getting their due. Following the Indian board's announcement that every delivery in senior tournaments would be video-recorded to maintain an umpires' log for appraisal purposes, a six-day training camp for 105 Indian umpires - overseen by Simon Taufel - is under way at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore.
This is part of a three-year deal with Cricket Australia (CA) for training and development of umpires, which might be a direct consequence of the visit of Srinivas Venkataraghavan[director of umpiring, India] to Australia.
Divided into three batches of 35, the best umpires in India will spend two days each with Taufel. "I think the BCCI has realised umpiring is one area of their cricket that is neglected and has approached Cricket Australia", Taufel said at the end of the second day.
"We [Taufel and Ross Turner, CA's global development manager] have been invited to help the umpires get better in some departments and in becoming more professional. So we are trying to establish a core foundation of umpiring skills. Our first priority is to find out if they are up to it in terms of skill levels. The first step is to help the umpires identify their strengths and weaknesses and to work on it."
It gets pretty complex from there. "We have done some theoretical exercises, we have given them some practical work, and we have also given them an exam on laws. We have talked to them about match-management, communication, and teamwork. We have also had some practical nets sessions and looked at umpiring techniques as well. Through that process the umpires have got a very good understanding of their skills, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and know where they need to work on now. If we can come back and work on them, we can work on more areas," he said.
Taufel agreed that two days per batch was clearly not enough. For the record, since Venkatraghavan retired from umpiring in January 2004, Indian umpires' participation in Tests has been limited to four Tests out of 160. The board has also been asked by the ICC to work towards improving the umpiring standards.
"Continuing this process is up to the BCCI to decide, but this is a good beginning," said Taufel. As MP Pandove, joint secretary of BCCI and the man responsible for allotment of matches to umpires said at the inauguration of the seminar, "The learning begins now."
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine